College Graduation Party Ideas

Stephanie M. Kelley
Graduation cake

A college graduation party is a great way to celebrate the accomplishments of a student. Turn an already momentous commencement affair into a wonderful celebration to congratulate the successful graduate. The easiest way to add flair to a college graduation party is with an appropriate theme.

School Spirit

Graduation party decor using two school colors
Graduation Party Decor by Amanda's Parties TO GO

Most graduates have a certain degree of love and loyalty for their school. Celebrate this loyalty by using the school as the theme for a college graduation party.

Location

Many college campuses have halls and banquet rooms available to rent. This would allow the host to hold the graduation party at the hub of the graduate's educational institution. Having the party on campus will be convenient for many people on the guest list. It's likely that there will be a lot of college students on the guest list and some or most of them are likely to live on or near campus.

Decorations

Use the colors and mascot from the graduate's school as an inspiration for a college graduation party. Find items you may already own or that can be easily purchased at an on-campus store for decor. For instance, use rally towels and pennants to decorate walls and stuffed mascots to decorate tables. Fill in with balloons, streamers and flowers in school colors.

Activities

Contact the school to see if you can arrange a surprise visit from the school mascot. Many schools have organized activities that might be able to be integrated into a graduation celebration. There may be a campus art and architecture tour or a gallery where guests can view student art. This might a perfect activity to offer to out-of-town guests who may not be familiar with the campus.

Refreshments

As many guests might be visiting the campus for the first time, consider serving foods indicative to the area, perhaps from the graduate's favorite local restaurant or the dining hall. It is also nice to serve the graduate's favorite foods and items that keep with the color-scheme. For example, if the school's colors are blue and red, consider serving blueberries, strawberries, and candies in these colors.

Degree and Career

Cutting cake at nursing school graduation party
Cutting Cake at Nursing School Graduation Party

Use the graduate's degree as the theme for their party. A party themed to celebrate his or her career choice is a meaningful way to salute the graduate's accomplishments and send him or her on the way to that professional future.

Location

If a student has recently graduated from the art department, consider hosting the party at a gallery. If the guest of honor is from the physical education department, you could use the gym as the party venue. Many departments have conference rooms that could be used for a party. If the student is graduating from the English department, hold the party at a local bookstore.

Decorations

Decor items should be inspired by the graduate's degree or career goal. A party celebrating an art student could be enhanced by using large easels, paint brushes and other art items to decorate. A science department grad might like seeing party guests dressed in lab coats or enlarged photos of Albert Einstein on the walls.

Activities

Put the graduate on the spot by asking guests to challenge him or her with questions related to his or her degree. You may also want to find games that relate to the field. For instance, if you are planning a nursing school graduation party, consider having a game that challenges guests to name various parts of the body.

If he or she will be entering a professional career, invite local professionals with a family connection to that same career for networking and professional support. While a graduation party is casual, be sure to alert the graduate about the potential networking opportunities that will be available.

Refreshments

Keep true to your theme by offering refreshments that work within it. If your graduate is going into a career in international law, serve food and drinks with an international origin. A graduate with a degree in astronomy might like food with a space theme such as moon pies and fruit cut into stars and moon shapes.

Hobbies and Interests

Sail Away Graduation Party Theme
Sail Away Graduation Party Theme by Your Homebased Mom

Honor the graduate's interests by choosing a theme in-keeping with his or her hobbies and extra-curricular activities.

Location

A party can be hosted just about anywhere and choosing a place that reflects the interests of the graduate can make the party even more fun. A graduate interested in astronomy would enjoy a party hosted in a planetarium. Check the extracurricular activities of the graduate and find a location that supports these interests.

Decorations

Decorations should be themed to the hobbies and interests the graduate participated in during college. A few examples include:

  • If a graduate has been a part of environmental protection groups on campus, host a green party in his or her honor. All the decorations and tableware should be recycled or reusable.
  • If a graduate has spent many college nights playing chess with other students, consider using enlarged chess pieces as decorations at his party.
  • An exchange student or someone who is interested in travel may like a party revolving around the theme of international travel. Decorate with maps, globes and artifacts from around the world.

Activities

Activities, like decorations, should be focused on the interests the graduate held while at college. Just a few ideas include:

  • Activities for this type of theme are those that interest the graduate. If the graduate is on a cheer, dance, or other performance team, invite the team to the party to perform.
  • For the football or basketball season ticket holder, play highlight tapes of great moments during the past four years. Add a trivia game to make things even more interesting.
  • Students who enjoyed the night life might find a mini recreation of their favorite dance club, complete with their drink of choice, to be a great way to spend their graduation party.

Refreshments

Plan food and drink around the rest of the theme. A college student who has spent time in a cooking club at college might enjoy unique and high-end finger foods. A graduate of Asian studies would likely appreciate sushi and other Asian-inspired dishes at his or her party.

Housewarming

Many graduates spend the first few weeks after graduation finding a new house or apartment. Consider having a housewarming themed party. Ask guests to bring gifts that might help the new graduate decorate their new abode. Also help provide him or her with small home appliances and other things someone could use when setting-up a new home.

Location

If possible, have the party at the graduate's new place. It could be a planned or surprise party, but it is wise to make sure that the graduate will be okay with the idea of having the party at his or her place. Unless you can talk with a roommate or very close friend to get permission to host the party there, it's best to let the guest of honor in on the party plans.

Decorations

Decorations are an essential element in creating a festive atmosphere. Cut mortarboards from black card stock to tape to the wall. You can also create faux diplomas out of white paper that is rolled-up and place them on tables as decorations. Cut the numbers of the year of graduation out of card stock to hang from the ceiling or tape on walls. You can also use a home theme, by cutting house shapes out of card stock and hang a "home sweet home" sign on the wall.

Activities

Ask guests to share a recipe, stain removal idea, easy way to unclog a toilet, or anything else that might of benefit to someone who is moving out on their own. This is an inexpensive activity that will hold special meaning for the guest of honor for years to come. Put ideas together in a journal for easy reference for the graduate after the party-goers depart.

Refreshment

Since it isn't likely that a college student's new kitchen is fully stocked, consider serving pizza, large sub sandwiches, chips, and dips. You might also want to serve cheese and cracker or fruit and vegetable trays. Desserts could include themed cupcakes or a decorated sheet cake and ice cream. Refreshments should be easy to make and clean up, so you aren't leaving the graduate with a messy place.

Reunions

Graduates photo decoration
Graduates photo decoration by Pear Tree Greetings

A family and friend reunion to celebrate a graduate's commencement is a superb way to surround him or her with support and congratulations before he embarks upon the next phase of his life. Arrange a party that include both new college friends and old friends from high school, along with family members.

Location

The hometown of the guest of honor or the collegiate's college town are the best places to host this party. A family home, church, or even a park is a suitable location for the gathering.

Decorations

Decorate the party area with photos of the graduate throughout his or her life. Include baby pictures and photos from grade school, high school, and college. You may also want to include memorabilia from milestones in the graduate's life such as souvenirs from trips, a high school diploma, and a stand or frame for the newly acquired college diploma.

Activities

Many times, reunions consist of a lot of talking, reminiscing and catching-up on news. Make a fun slideshow for the graduate featuring "News You Missed" that cover exciting events from old friend and family's lives would be fun; don't forget to turn the tables on the graduate and make a slideshow of his or her college life to show to friends and family.

Refreshments

Refreshments could include hometown and college town favorites and casual finger food. If the graduate has a favorite restaurant in his or her hometown, consider bringing a popular dish from that establishment. It's also a possibility to ask friends and families to bring a dish and have a potluck.

Vacations

vacation travel theme party
Travel Theme Grad Party by Love Your Day Designs

The last year of a college education is often the most stressful and may be filled with internships, thesis projects, job fairs, certification exams, and other difficult challenges. Instead of a formal party, some graduates may appreciate a vacation getaway - a weekend trip, cruise, or other outing - to relax and celebrate in a more lighthearted way before buckling down to a new job.

Location

A destination party can be held anywhere, and college students often enjoy road trips. Invite the graduate and some close friends to a mountain getaway or for a day of relaxing on the beach. If money is an issue, consider sending the graduate and a friend on a local trip instead of an expensive destination.

Decorations

If you are going to have a graduation party on location, minimal decorations will be needed as the destination is likely to have natural beauty. Mortarboards or school colors might be appropriate supplemental decorations for this type of party and are easy to transport.

Activities

If your vacation themed party is being held at an exotic location, participate in local activities such as touring the area or visiting a landmark. If you are simply using the vacation destination as a party theme inspiration, consider inviting guests to participate in destination specific activities such as teaching Hula dance to guests at a Hawaiian themed party.

Refreshments

Again, use the destination as an inspiration for menu items. Whether the graduate's destination is domestic or foreign, serve culinary treats from this location. As most college graduates are of drinking age, consider having a signature drink with each meal that is unique to the area.

Congratulate College Graduates

Choosing the right college graduation party ideas can make this celebration more than a congratulatory event. Whether it is a reunion party, a networking opportunity, or just a relaxing getaway, the graduate will appreciate the thoughts and effort that make graduation a memorable event. Don't forget to send out college graduation party invitations that will get all the special guests to the party once you've chosen the theme.

College Graduation Party Ideas